Monday, January 23, 2023

The Magic of Stitching Retreats!

I'm just home from a 4-day stitching retreat in rural central Ohio!  Do you have the opportunity to get away from your at-home sewing area and devote yourself to some stitching?  I hope so because I find it's a great way to refresh my state of mind!

I've been hosting and attending retreats for many years.  I've graduated (finally) from taking more than two people could accomplish in the allotted time to a reasonable assortment that keeps me busy and delivers a morale boost of reaching a few goals (not necessarily "finishes").   This time I also limited myself to hand work -- easier to transport myself!

Sometimes I use a retreat as a time to start that new BIG project, but this time I focused on six projects with the goal to make progress on each.  The first was a small wallhanging I whipped up last week from a long-hoarded fabric and maple leaf blocks left over from my big fall leaf quilt finished 15 years or more ago.  Because I didn't have to do any piecing, it was set together in an afternoon and quilted in two more sessions.  I want to hang it during February (the beginning of maple syrup season here in Northeast Ohio) so the first retreat project was to finish the binding and add a casing!

Now it's ready to hang!!

Finishing a project was a great start to the weekend!
And now I can let go of the hoard of "maple sugaring time" fabric! 
Leave a comment below if you'd like to buy a hunk off of me!

Then I turned to an old teaching sample -- these 12 blocks were buried on my UFO shelf with the book.  Before the weekend, I pieced the rest of the background blocks and finished prepping a couple of the circles for applique.  During the weekend, I worked on the applique a few blocks at a time between other projects.  Now all of them are appliqued and ready to be trimmed and organized into a small wallhanging when I get motivated -- having the blocks ready will make it easier to get going again.

Friday morning after a good night's sleep, it was time to take on one of the big goals for the weekend -- get the borders attached to the "mystery" EPP quilt top I made last year. It was designed and shared by Jemima's Creative Quilting in Australia.  
(She will be starting a new one February 6, 2023 -- preliminary info HERE!!)
I appliqued the pointy edges and machine stitched the straight edges so having an empty table to work on was the main reason for doing this during the retreat!?!
I pieced the border print to maintain the up/down direction of the print all the way around the quilt top so to make the best use of the yardage I had.  That gave me the opportunity to share a trick I use when matching for invisible seams with other retreat participants.  I took photos so I can share it with you, too!

My strips are cut from repeated sections of the print and are longer than needed.
Lay the two pieces to be joined end to end, wrong side up and press back about l/2" on one.
Flip both strips to the right side.
Now move the right hand (pressed under seam) onto the left hand strip.
It you focus on the pinkish flowers repeating along the middle of the strip, it will be easier to follow what is happening.
Keep moving the right end towards the left until it aligns with the print on the left strip.
My finger is just under the edge of the right side so you can see how easy it is to achieve a good match.
Without moving the left strip, flip the right strip right side down onto the left strip holding the seam in place so it doesn't shift.  One of the other gals suggested using a temporary sticky thing like glue or two-sided tape -- great idea!!
Time to stitch!
I press the seam open to make it flatter and even less obvious.
The seam is at the end of the pin, but I can't see it -- can you??
Now I need to organize a backing -- preferably out of my stash -- and decide whether to machine or hand quilt this one.

I also layered my Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt top -- big empty table again!  I've decided to machine quilt this top and have a plan for that in my head -- hope to start next week!  There is a regional show in April where I'd like to exhibit it.

Once I had those four goals accomplished I lost a lot of my focus but I had a couple other projects in progress with me so puttered with them prepping for next steps.

When I got home Sunday noon I was still pumped to stitch so spent part of the afternoon organizing borders for a tablerunner UFO I'm upcycling into a twin size quilt for a charitable project -- more about that another time.  

This week, I'll focus on quilting the Sakura strippy quilt top I made earlier this month out of my 2 1/2" strip stash (see the last post). 

The retreat has energized me and I just want to spend all day with a needle!!
It was great to see what other quilters are doing -- there were some great projects happening and I have a few new ideas (which I don't really need) which adds to the energy!

Have a good week!!

PS -- If you live in central Ohio, the Central Ohio Modern Quilt Guild is hosting the lovely and creative Nicole Young of Lillyella Stitchery at this event next month!!  
The venue is gorgeous and the tickets are limited to 100 so don't hesitate! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

It's been a GREAT day!!

The design wall is empty today!!  My version of Katja Marek's Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden is completed -- well, the top is finished!!  
I've spent part of everyday since New Year's Day assembling the subsections into bigger sections until there were two diagonal halves.  All that was left to stitch were dozens of 3/4" seams -- stitch one, stitch a "sew-off", stitch another, and so on.

My goal was to finish the piecing by the time I leave for a retreat in a week where I started this project last winter.  Managing my neck arthritis is challenging.  It dictates how long I can sit at my sewing  machine, so I'm trying to develop a new habit of stopping before my neck starts to hurt.
The "set-in piecing simplified" technique I use to machine piece hexagons needs a "sew-off" at the end of every seam, so I've been going through dozens of them this week.  

On New Year's Eve day (itchy to start a new project), I sorted through my 2 1/2" strip stash and cut everything for a scrappy strip quilt that has been on my "want to piece" list for a while.  It is a take-off of a jelly roll quilt -- Sakura Sun (by Linda Fitch for RJR Fabrics).  Stitching the pieces into the bands was my first set of sew-offs.
Bonus -- getting up and down to press the bands as they were finished is a good mini-break from the machine and my neck appreciated that!!
165 sew-offs later and the bands were ready to put on the design wall -- well, that's exciting!!  
I spent an hour moving the bands around a bit to control some "hot-spots" --
like this hot pink/orange/red piece on the left that was screaming at me from the other side of the room.
Quick tip here -- I switched it with another more subtle "warm color" piece and settled it up against another red/orange piece to calm it down.
Much better!!
Of course, once the layout felt right I had to sew the bands together and finish the top immediately!?!
I added three more bands than the pattern specified to achieve a "tall" laprobe size. 
Time to hunt for some more sew-offs and get back to work on Homage!

It has been my habit for over a decade to use UFO's that have stalled out at the piecing stage as "sew-offs" -- two birds, one stone.  This piece surfaced sometime in November while I was hunting for something else so I laid out what was pieced on the floor and have been stepping over it for two months.  
No cutting needed as I had done that whenever I started it.
And more set-in piecing -- so I was on a roll!
I see-sawed back and forth between the two projects 
adding the honeycombs to the layout.  I cut a few more of the hexa-poly shapes to finish the outer edges and . . . . . 
. . . . . then there it was, the very last 3/4" seam of Homage!!
And here it is in all it's glory!
All the fabric is from my stash.
Rotary cut with the little hexagon in Marti Michell's template Set N.
It is completely machine pieced using the "set-in piecing simplified" technique that I taught.
The top is about 64" wide by 60" long and I won't add a border.
The backing is ready and I'll take it to the retreat next week to layer it (and show off)!
I even have ideas in mind for how I'll quilt it by machine!?!
My wheels will spin for a day or two now while I refocus and pick up the next project.
That's where all my lists come in handy -- minimizes the wheel spinning!

Keep stitching out there!!